If you’re using an autoresponder — and since you’re reading my blog you certainly are — you’re eventually concerned about the Open Rate of your list. If not, or if you’re still sending your newsletters in plain text format only (which I used to do until just recently), then you can dismiss this post for the time being. Bookmark and come back to it once you do.

The other day I received a “last newsletter issue” from a spiritual business person in which he expressed the concern of apparently low open rates. He grieved that only 25% would actually open the issues questioning why he should continue sending the advice if 75% would not even bother reading it (my own MyGermanCity.com’s stats exemplify the opposite, BTW).

This made me realize that even high profile Internet business people are still concerned about open rates? I was under the impression that dignitaries would be aware of the idiosyncrasies of open rates and that we have to take them with a grain of salt — especially those who use AWeber‘s main package (like I do).

Are you aware that a portion of your audience has set their e-mail client to block the display of images in e-mails received? And are you aware that AWeber tracks the open rates by slyly including a reference to a tiny image from within e-mail campaigns? So those who block the display of images in e-mails would read your message but the autoresponder stats would imply that they have not opened it.

On the other hand, and this is another oddity, if your subscribers open an individual message more than once, they’re being counted as often as they accept the display of images each time they open that issue. In other words, let’s say Joe opens the message today and then next week again, it will be counted as if two subscribers opened your newsletter. Yup.

This may count especially heavily for e-zines with a ton of high quality content where subscribers will likely read it again and again.

Solution?

Well, I welcome further elaboration on this matter. Besides, I’m aware of extended subscriptions in which one can activate tools which resolve this issue.

Still, what about those who are not willing to pay double price and still, to some extend, trust the current stats? How can you improve its accuracy?

Let me list a couple of solutions on how to get more valid open rates in your e-mail campaigns…

  • Include a distinctive header image without which the issue looks somewhat incomplete.
  • Include a unique image for each individual newsletter issue that will make your audience want to display pictures so they can see what interesting graphic or pic you show them this time.
  • Have your newsletter inundated with images so that it can’t be read without accepting the whole enchilada. This is a personal choice, and it’s not my favorite, but it may be highly effective for select audiences. The downside is that the open rate could ridiculously shoot to the roof since folks will likely open individual issues more than once and thus need to unblock images each and every time or else they cannot read a single word of it.

What do you do or use to refine the accuracy of your open rates? Or do you still send your issues in plain text and thus don’t really care about them?

—Marcus Hochstadt

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19 Responses to Autoresponder Open Rates, So What?

  1. The issue is not with how we prefer to send the news letters but how the users read them. If most of them read it in plain text without loading the images why send it with them?

  2. You are so right, open rates are completely over rated. Now, much more important are click through rates, which are what you really want out of your email marketing.

  3. Kay says:

    I agree with you. But I didn’t know that they can block the images on their email. Images might not be a good idea. This is a very interesting facts. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Will says:

    Open rates are overrated, but I also agree with Roman Grinblat above. I just wondered what you meant by unique image, exactly? I ask because my friend used a service for his email newsletter for subscribers where he would use photographers and graphic artists to create pictures for his newsletter. However, the images turned out to be in batches and were reproduced to many companies. How can you be sure to obtain unique content without signing some heavy legal agreement?

  5. Max says:

    Yes open rates can be deceiving, therefore click rates are the true interest results, except for purchase. Images can be important to tempt further click through rate, and I do not think many people know how to stop images.

  6. Mike says:

    You know if the output of your email is generated dynamically I don’t know why you couldn’t get rid of the “counted as if two subscribers opened your newsletter” problem. This should be a very easy fix. Who ever created the system your using should have gotten past this problem.

  7. If you write decent copy I don’t see much point in using html. Why use html? I know it is not the topic of the post, but what reason did you have for switching from plain text?

  8. M. Byogay says:

    Simplicity is the answer. I don’t relish receiving graphics in my email body.

    Why don’t people just send plain text auto responder emails with hyperlinks to a webpage that will contain the said graphics???

    Personally, plain text denotes being personal and direct whereas graphic rich newsletters represent the corporate, impersonal image.

    I know of several IM-ers who send only plain vanilla and they make massive sales month after month. I guess we should all stop falling for the colourful marketing-speak of autoresponder services.

  9. corporte kid says:

    i was concerned with sending them as html as they sometimes get flagged as spam or doesn’t display the content correctly and then the mail looks messy and unprofessional!! should i just bite the bullet and try it for a while?

  10. Jack says:

    I must agree with the comment of M. Byogay, especially with “Simplicity is the answer”.

  11. CP News says:

    I prefer plain text in my emails, and sometimes get quite annoyed with multiple images – it always takes a while for them to load.

    I agree that simplicity is the answer.

  12. Eddie Garcia says:

    I like simplicity too. I really like things to the point w/o all the smoke and mirrors. Just tell me the truth and let me decide for myself. Autoresponders have their purpose but there is nothing like one on one contact with your prospects. I like personal. Thanks for the info!

    Friends 4 Life!

  13. Open rates provided by your autoresponder are a brief outline. I choose to use links I can track specificly for every email. I also link my subscribers to many social media accounts. Look up your subscribers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Twitter, and so on. This gives you many options when it comes to getting your messages read.

  14. Winmark says:

    I agree, open rates are inaccurate and overrated… And 25% is NOT that bad even if it is accurate. As another commenter said, by making each link trackable (you can do this with Google Analytics link tagging) you’ll learn a whole lot more about the effectiveness of your mailings than looking at open rates.

  15. Mike S says:

    great article. I just started capturing emails and using an autoresponder. – very helpful

  16. Jenny Jones says:

    I still do not have the Autoresponder for some reasons like you have mentioned above. Most email provider are blocking newsletters and images, like AOL and Gmail. So if possible, just make your letter simple, short and concise.

  17. Jacob says:

    You are totally right. I think open rates is something business owners should be concern about and not how many subcribers they have.

    Take Care

  18. Cliff says:

    I am so close to signing up for aWeber. But I am also cheap. Knauser! So I have difficulty with the monthly fees and always look for the freebie. I guess I need to see it as an investment.

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